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Year: 1933

Director: Frank Tuttle

Cast: Genevieve Tobin, Roland Young, Ralph Forbes, Una O’Connor, Minna Gombell, Frank Atkinson, Robert Greig, and Arthur Hoyt

I read a 1933 NY Times article on Pleasure Cruise yesterday and was surprised to see this quote: “Mr. Young and Miss Tobin aroused heaps of laughter from an audience yesterday afternoon.” I thought this pre-code film was cute but one man’s hilarity from 75 years ago apparently doesn’t measure up to a contemporary audience. At least this audience of one, anyway. The basic storyline is that an engaged couple are going through a trying financial time as Andrew Poole (Young) has been ruined and is forced to sell every asset to satisfy creditors. Embarrassed by this calamity, Poole believes the only sensible thing to do is call off the wedding. Shirley (Tobin) won’t hear of it. She has a good job in a downtown London firm and Tobin’s character is willing to be the breadwinner until they get back on their feet. Reluctant to agree because of appearances, Andrew gives in when his fiancee argues convincingly that he can finish the book he’s always going on about. When we first see Mr. Poole doing housechores in an apron, this is our second indicator of a pre-code convention: a role reversal of the sexes. One of the aspects of this picture I really enjoyed was Tuttle’s creative use of the camera. Right from the opening shot I could tell that this director had formidable skills. As Pleasure Cruise begins the viewer thinks he sees the back of a naked women posing for an artist. But as the camera moves closer we realize that we’re seeing a painting instead. Psych. Still another trait of pre-code pictures is partial or even full-on nudity. One of the true competencies of Classic Hollywood directors is their gift of economy when it comes to narrative pacing. This picture clocks in at a brief 70 minutes. Tuttle employs transition shots to depict passages of time. For example, to move from the auction to the wedding to the film’s present, Tuttle focuses on the couples’ feet as they walk. The director uses this method again to shift the movie from the Pooles’ argument in the rain outside the travel agent office, forward to the cruise ship; simply by focusing on a puddle. Back to our tale. Andrew is slowly going frustrated at the thought of his wife working in an office surrounded by men. As he relates his jealousies to Judy (Minna Gombell) the househusband gazes into a photo of his lovely wife. He discusses how he imagines each co-worker to be as the picture becomes animated and we see Shirley roam the office to each of her colleagues. Of course, as her husband visualizes the men, they are all very handsome. Yet Tuttle manages to also show them as they really are: old and crusty. By the time she gets home his jealousy manifests itself into an argument that continues until they find themselves outside a travel office. Tobin’s character suggests that maybe what they need is a holiday from their matrimony. Young’s character exclaims that he’d love to go fishing and his wife agrees that it is a great idea. When she counters that she’ll embark on a pleasure cruise while he’s gone, he becomes enraged and they part ways. Mr. Poole calls in a marker he has with an old friend who sits on the cruise ship company’s board of directors. It is arranged for him to board the vessel posing as a barber. Now he can ensure his wife doesn’t engage in any shenanigans. Onboard, Shirley Poole is ogled and sweet-talked by several potential suitors. The idea of an extra-marital affair is suddenly starting to have an appeal for the newlywed. There are several comedy sequences where Mr. Poole — in various disguises — spies on his wife as she interacts with a variety of playboys. One such player named Richard Taversham (Ralph Forbes) actually makes an impression. She ends up at the party with him that night and he tries to convince her to invite him into her cabin later. Shirley doesn’t commit either way so the brash Richard leaves the table presumptuously. The picture then shifts to a bedroom scene in which an inebriated Mrs. Poole is conflicted over her dilemma. On the one hand, she’s still boiling mad with her partner and she is attracted to Richard. However, as she looks into a photograph of her husband the doubts creep in. The alcohol has an aphrodesiac-like effect and she leaves the cabin door unlocked for the handsome rake. A third no-no of pre-code insolence has been suggested: extra-marital sex is acceptable and inevitable. There is some misdirection about who actually sleeps with the lovely bride but I’ll keep that a mystery. This question also serves as the movie’s punchline. Overall, Pleasure Cruise was a decent story with excellent visuals from Tuttle. Genevieve Tobin and Roland Young are serviceable as actors and the former is easy on the eyes. I found Una O’Connor’s portrayal of Mrs. Signus to be rather unfunny. In addition, her character is an eye-rolling cinematic cliche: the gauche, unattractive older woman who hits on every gentleman in her path. Give this movie a look for the pre-code curiosities and innovative camerawork, but it doesn’t reside amongst the genre’s best.

By James White

Year: 1933

Director: Albert Ray

Cast: Ginger Rogers, Lyle Talbot, Harvey Clark, Purnell Pratt, Lillian Harmer, Arthur Hoyt, Louise Beavers

Before she got famous with Fred, Ginger Rogers made a lot of B-grade films. A Shriek in the Night is a better one, and another film that has a low rating on IMDb that I don’t understand. It’s certainly not a great movie, but it’s a good one.

Ginger plays Pat, a reporter who’s been working undercover as the secretary to a possibly crooked public figure. When that man is killed, she’s in the prime position to get a good scoop. However, her scoop is stolen by her sometimes paramour Ted (Talbot). The two eventually end up working together, and the closer they get to the murderer, the more danger their lives are in.

Ginger is incredibly spunk and likeable in this movie. In a lot of films of these types from the early 1930s, when they had a pretty young actress playing an inquisitive reporter, the actress often didn’t seem anywhere near smart enough for the role. But Ginger comes across as being extremely intelligent and resourceful. And she has good chemistry with Talbot. The relationship begins with the usual hate/love of the two leads of strong personality. Fortunately, though, it goes a different direction and sticks mostly with the ‘love’ side of things. Which is a good choice, because as good as they are when they’re fighting, Rogers and Talbot are much more adorable as a couple.

The film does have some tone problems. It’s a mystery/comedy. It is very funny, with Rogers and Talbot delivering their fair share of zingers, and Purnell Pratt being funny and quippy as the lead Inspector. He especially earns some great laughs in the first scene. It also has some extremely well done moments on the thriller side. Towards the end there are some very well executed moments of genuine creepiness and suspense. However, the two tones never really gel completely. While both comedy and suspense are done well, they don’t come together well. It’s like watching two different movies.

There is a good central mystery, though. Unlike a lot of movies of this type, A Shriek in the Night is more focused on it’s murder mystery than it is on the romance. Sometimes with mysteries, you follow the story with some interest, but not trying to figure it out because you know they’ll just tell you it all in the end. With this film, however, I found myself constantly engaged with the mystery, greatly interested in all the clues and revalations, and trying to figure it out before the end. They do kind of blow their load by revealing the killer a little too early.

With its great cast, charming leads, and intriguing mystery, A Shriek In the Night is definitely a chiller worth your time.

NOTE: This movie is available on YouTube.

By Katie Richardson